When you’re living abroad, there are things that were initially obvious to you – or even jarring – that over time become your new normal.
Here are some from living in Bali over the past couple of weeks.
Where there’s a wool…
I have turned into a sheep. I have naturally curly hair; it’s fine and I have a lot of it. In Bali, where the humidity creeps down to 80% but typically sits in the 90s, my hair has turned into what I can only describe as ‘wool’. I can slick it back, pin it back, put a shot-glass full of product on it, and half-way through the day, I look like a sheep. Yesterday, I decided not to fight it. I loaded up the hair product and let it dry naturally. The result: thick spiral curls. I was okay with the curls until I went for a massage and she massaged my head. Goodbye curls, hello wool. When I sat up I looked like Shirley Temple after she’d been electrocuted. It’s my new normal.
Quite simply, in Bali, there is garbage nearly everywhere. While visiting friends on the north coast over the weekend, we were admiring the water views and watched a local woman simply sweep a pile of garbage – mostly plastic – into the ocean. In fact, there is so much garbage in the water off Singaraja and Lovina Beach, no one but the locals swim there. Every dot in the water in this photo is a piece of plastic and there are hundreds of pieces in amongst the rocks. It’s sad to see in this otherwise idyllic scene.
And here are some local kids playing amongst the detritus, oblivious.
Apparently, the speed limit across most of Bali is 40km/hr. From our road experiences to date, there will often be long stretches of driving where we won’t crack 20 and then suddenly, we’ll be flying down the road on the wrong side doing 80 and overtaking a scooter piled high with reeds or baskets.
There seem to be no road rules, and even a red light is merely a suggestion. Overtaking is the only way to get anywhere and there are no roads with more than one lane in either direction. On many occasions, I’ve had to place a lot of trust in the driver that they don’t want to die either, and that we will not have a head-on collision with that huge bus coming straight at us. My new normal is to take these journeys in stride (Valium sold separately).
I’ve also stopped being baffled by the westerners who wear helmets while riding a scooter, and strap their helmet-less baby to their front, or let their helmet-less toddler ride standing up between their arms. No, your parental powers will not prevent your child from getting a serious head injury if you have a collision.
The last time I was in Bali in 2015 and the time before that in 2003, the cry from vendors as you walked down the street was, ‘You buy? You buy?’ In 2018, I have yet to hear ‘You buy?’, but even a short walk will elicit cries of ‘Taxi?’ from all directions. Men – I have yet to hear this from a woman – watch for tourists who look lost, hot or tired – or all three – and ask if they want a taxi ride. They will then ‘phone a friend’ who shows up in a car to whisk you away to wherever you want to go.
Taxis here are reasonably cheap, most are newer model cars, and as the Balinese take pride in their vehicles, they are immaculate. That said, we’re more than happy to walk – especially when it’s for exercise – so our new normal is to say, ‘no thank you’ a dozen times any time we decide to walk somewhere.
(Not) wining and dining
Wine is expensive in Bali – even the bad stuff, like Yellow Tail. Sorry, Yellow Tail, but even though I miss wine, I will not pay $30 Australian for you. There are some Balinese wines, but as they pick 3 vintages a year here, the grapes – and the wine – are apparently flavourless. Our new normal is to drink Bintang beer (that is, Ben drinks Bintang) and spirits. Spirits are not cost prohibitive, and it’s nice to have a gin and tonic with fresh lime (Mmm, lime) as a sun-downer. I am, however, looking forward to our stint in Seattle in May when we can hit some of our fave Washington wineries!
Also, my new normal is co-living, but that’s another blog post…